A renewed commitment to blogging and commenting

Throughout 2010, I disappointed myself. As the weeks went by, I realized I was posting less on ProPR.ca. Just as bad, I failed to make the time to comment on other people’s blogs.

I found several reasons to rationalize my flagging effort at blogging. I had transferred much of my attention to twitter. More and more, I would tweet my thoughts in snippets and link to content that caught my eye. At the same time, I was being asked to speak to groups more often. I try to deliver a different presentation to every group. So I was spending an increasing amount of time creating content that would be presented to small groups, but which I failed to translate into blog posts. Add to this the uptick in the business cycle that took more of my time on company work and you I had all that I needed to justify my less frequent posting on Pro PR.

But I feel guilty about that. I take great value from the posts that others spend the time writing. And I feel I should contribute in equal measure.

So my promise to myself (and you) is to post much more frequently in 2011. My target is five posts per week. That’s ambitious and I don’t know whether I’ll be able to achieve this all or even most weeks. But I’ll try.

At the same time, I will make a real effort to write comments on other people’s sites. I frequently tweet links to the content that I find interesting. But I know as an author of a blog, tweeted links are no substitute for a healthy conversation in the context of the blog post itself. So I will try to contribute more to the conversation in the place where you create it – your blog – as well as tweeting links.

I hope that you will continue to visit and subscribe to ProPR.ca in 2011. If you see something interesting here, please take a minute to leave a comment with your own thoughts.

Ultimately, it’s the conversation that validates the effort of blogging.

ProPR turns 3 – Should I stay or should I go?

ProPR quietly turned 3 years old in mid November. As I do every year at this time, I look back at my first post to ask myself whether my stated purpose is still valid.

Why did I start blogging?

I wrote in my first post

Through this blog, I hope to have a voice in the discussion surrounding new developments in public relations, communications and marketing.

At my firm, we encourage people to develop to their maximum potential.

Thought leadership is an important goal for all professionals. With this blog, I hope to stimulate others to think about these issues and advance their own thinking.

Comments are an important means of contributing to the discussion. I encourage any who read this blog to offer their comments on my entries.

I don’t kid myself about being a thought leader. But I am happy to be able to contribute my perspective on issues. And I’m even happier that people have commented on the posts they have found interesting or thought provoking.

So, will I keep going?

Blogging has become part of my life. I cannot imagine ever going back to reading a book without being able to make a note in the margin, “Post about this on ProPR.” Or to reading an online article without being able to tag it to delicious with the intention of linking to it in a post. Blogging provides me with motivation and occasion to think twice about things and to find connections and patterns. It changes me from passive reader to active thinker.

So, let’s end the suspense. Will I keep going? You bet.

Thank you to my community!

Since I started, you have been my constant companion. I have posted 566 times. For every post, you have written on average three comments. So, in a very real way, this blog is a truly collaborative creation. And I thank you for this.

As I keep writing for ProPR, I hope that you will continue to find content here that entices you to read and, even better, comment.

Here’s looking forward to another year of posting on Pro PR and having great conversations with you, my community.

Not with a bang but with a whimper?

Mark Evans reflects on Jason Calacanis’ announcement that he’s done with blogging and asks the question, "Do blogs/bloggers have a ‘best until’ date? "

I think that sooner or later, 99% of bloggers will retire from blogging or at least their current blogs. There comes a time when anyone has said all they have to say and all that keeps them going is ego. If they can come to grips with the ego question, they’ll move on to something else.

That something else may be a different blog on a different subject matter and a fresh perspective. Or it may be to leave blogging altogether.

For some people, that will come with a dramatic declaration that "I’m outahere." For most, however, I think it will come about with less and less frequent until things simply peter out.

Not with a bang but a whimper .

What do you think? How long will you keep blogging before you shut down your current blog or walk away altogether?

Social media authorship is mandatory for credibility as an advisor

Tom Foremski strikes a nerve with his post, PR Firms that Don’t Blog Yet Offer New/Social Media Practices . Tom argues:

… I’ve always said that PR firms cannot claim to know anything about new/social media if they aren’t using it themselves.

One way to check out if a PR firm understands blogging, etc, is to see if they have a blog of their own. Many don’t, or if they do, they post very infrequently, and usually after meetings abut what they will blog about. Yet nearly every PR firm offers a new/social media practice to clients and claims that they understand this medium. This is BS imho.

I think that Tom is absolutely right. Usually, I keep my views to myself on this. But Tom’s post and the comments in response to it really hit home.

So, this is a one-time post about this topic. And before I start, please excuse me if this reads as self-congratulatory. It’s not meant to be.

But it is meant to be a challenge to all those companies that are out there peddling social media advice from the safe distance of observers. People who say "you don’t need to be active in social media to be able to advise on how to do it right."

So, to you folks, I say:

You can’t understand the process of creation unless you’ve created something

I’m a big believer that you need to be a creator of social media to truly understand it.

Social media is online communications in which people switch easily from being audience to author – without the need to know coding (thank you social software!)

How can you really understand social media if you restrict yourself to the audience role? You are really only watching one half of social media. You have to experience the work, agony and joy of creation to really know both sides of social media.

Go to next heading if you want to skip the Thornley Fallis story

Have we put our money, time and effort where my mouth is? You betcha we have. Not only me, but all the people I work with.

Back in ’04, we began experimenting with social media behind the firewall – with both a Wiki to replace our traditional intranet and a blog. (I started out with an MSN Spaces account restricted only to the people in my MSN friends list – social media on training wheels.)

In ’05, I came out in public with the Pro PR blog . Shortly after that, Terry Fallis along with David Jones (then a Thornley Fallis employee) launched the Inside PR podcast .

At the same time, we encouraged all of the people in the company to get involved in blogging (that was pre-Facebook, pre-Twitter). And as people began to post, we redeveloped the Thornley Fallis Website so that the most recent posts from each of our employee blogs are front and centre. In this way, we give visitors a chance to know our company through the thoughts of the people who work here, not through "brochureware".

Today, if people come to our Website, they can read the views and insights that our team shares each an every day through: Michael O’Connor Clarke’s Uninstalled , Michael Seaton’s The Client Side , Bob LeDrew’s FlackLife , John Sobol’s The Talking Shop and the collectively authored blogs of the women in our Toronto office, PRGirlz , the folks in our Ottawa office, Capital PR , and our 76design team, shift+control .

Last year, Terry Fallis self-published his novel, the Best Laid Plans, and promoted it by reading it in a podcast series on his blog. Not only did he explore a whole new model of publishing, but his novel was awarded the Leacock Award for Humour . (And now he has a traditional publishing deal which will see his novel published and hit bookstores in the autumn season. Way to go, Terry!)

We also created some apps – FriendsRoll and TopLinks – which we hope will help revitalize the blogroll and bring a greater sense of community to blogs.

And along the way, we’ve played with all the Shiny New Objects. We’ve learned which are simply really neat technology and which have real utility. And we actively participate and generate content in those that we find useful. Twitter, Facebook, Dopplr, del.icio.us and many more.

Oh yes. We also took our social media involvement back into the real world. We’ve helped to organize the Third Tuesday social media meetups to provide a place where we can meet in the real world with others who share our passions for social media.

Bottom Line: Social media authorship is the entry fee for social media credibility.

Where does that leave us? Well, when someone asks me a question about social media, I never have to preface my response with "They say…" or "They believe…" I can always say, "In my experience, I have discovered…" And that gives me real confidence that the advice I am providing is solid.

I listen to people who have never posted to a blog pronouncing their views and presenting themselves as experts in social media. And usually I politely keep my opinion to myself. But I’ll say it here. Very few of the people who aren’t active creators of social media really understand the nuances of the social media culture.

OK. That’s the end of my rant. What do you think?

Ottawa technology sector uses social media platform for promotion

Here’s another case study in the making: a business group attempting to use social media for promotion and marketing.

At the height of the dot com boom, the Ottawa technology sector styled itself as Silicon Valley North. In fact, the technology sector was powered by industry leaders like Nortel, JDS Uniphase, Entrust and Cognos and the startups that grew up around them.

All that changed in a short period of time. The Ottawa industry was hit hard by the drop in demand for telecom and Internet gear. Tech companies fell on hard times, laying off employees, pulling out of the region or simply closing their doors.

Well, the region’s technology sector has slowly clawed its way back up from the depths. And now the tech sector’s business 82000reasons.comassociation, the Ottawa Centre for Research and Innovation (OCRI) wants to spread the good news about the region’s resurgence.

OCRI has launched 82000 Reasons.com to proclaim to the world that the region’s tech sector has survived the telecom implosion, has reestablished itself on solid footing and is growing again. The site’s name alludes to the fact that there are now more than 82,000 people employed in Ottawa’s tech sector.

I found out about the site through a news release that arrived in my feedreader via an RSS feed from MarketWire. (Yes, news releases continue to be an effective way to reach people with an interest in your subject area.)

OCRI’s release says that 82000reasons:

“gives tech employees and companies an RSS, blog and viral video platform to share their successes with a global audience.”

“In the era of user generated content, every one of Ottawa’s technology success stories can be told, tagged and distributed online to a global audience,” says [Michael Darch, Executive Director of Ottawa Global Marketing]. “82000reasons.com leverages our greatest asset, our people, to tell the ‘Why Ottawa?’ story. They are better qualified than anyone to describe Ottawa’s lifestyle and technology strengths so we can attract the people and investment dollars we need to fuel our growth.”

OCRI is promoting participation through a contest offering Ottawa-Frankfurt air tickets to the best contributions and through by “banner ads on Facebook, plus local print, banner ad and radio advertising.”

Conspicuously absent in the list of promotional initiatives is any type of blogger outreach. That’s a real missed opportunity for an initiative that presents itself in social media terms.

The site has just launched. So, it’s too early to judge participation. I’ll follow its progress and try to arrange an interview with Mike Dartch in about a month to talk about the site’s objectives and how it is performing.

UPDATE: Media in Canada also has covered the launch of 82000Reasons

Advice to the class of '08: Blogging is an essential for new PR practitioners

Centennial College’s Gary Schlee writes that the newest crop of students in his Online PR course are now setting up their blogs.

Gary is giving his students a real advantage in starting a career in PR. Those students who view their blogs as more than a class exercise, but also as an exciting way to connect and communicate with others who share their interests and passions, they will have started down the fast lane to a bright future in the new PR.

The old PR was about communicating messages to an audience. The new PR is about being part of a community.

In effect, students are taking the first step to developing their own online voices and finding people of like mind – becoming part of a community. This is the essence of the “relations” in public relations. It’s not a one-time thing. It should be a lifelong commitment. It will then turn into a lifelong asset, one which they can take with them wherever they work.

(Don’t be discouraged if early on it’s a community of only two or three. Remember, it’s not about numbers, it’s about trust.)

I do not hire entry level people without looking at their blog, following their twitter stream and checking their Facebook presence. I want a sense of who they are over time, not just when they are in my office. I want to know what they think on the issues they care about and how they express themselves. I want to see whether and how they connect with others. And I can find out all those things from their social media presence.

And then I will try to recruit the people who I believe not only have the strongest, clearest voices but also the ability to balance this with listening, respecting and responding to others in a way that makes them part of a healthy, positive community. These are the folks that I want to work with. And these are the folks I’ll look to hire.

So, in encouraging his students, Gary is providing them with a tremendous head start. I really look forward to the time when all PR educators are as forward looking as Gary.

FlackLife and The Client Side join Our Community

Michael SeatonIf you take a look at “Our Community” in ProPR’s sidebar, you’ll see two new additions: FlackLife and The Client Side. We’ve added these blogs because their authors, Bob LeDrew and Michael Seaton, have joined us at Thornley Fallis.

That’s pretty exciting for us. Not only do we gain two new work colleagues, but they also bring two blogs to us with two very different perspectives.

Bob LeDrewBob LeDrew has been sharing his perspective on the public relations industry and issues since April 2003. Michael Seaton writes and podcasts from the perspective of a digital marketer who was until he joined us on the Client Side as Director of Digital Marketing at one of Canada’s major banks.

Over the past couple of years, we’ve been able to include some very smart people in our community who write about social media, communications, marketing and design. Our community currently includes: Michael O’Connor Clarke, Terry Fallis, John Sobol, the Web designers and developers at 76design, the PRGirlz (although they’ve posted sparingly lately), and the PR team in Canada’s capital. And although they’ve left the firm, we still think of David Jones, Chris Clarke and John Wiseman as members of our extended social media family.

Our approach to blogging is that we want people with their own blogs to bring them to our community. We encourage them to write as frequently as they want. And we always acknowledge that if they leave us, they can take their blogs with them. We will retain the value of what we learned and shared while they were with us, but their blogs are theirs.

While they are with us, we ask only that they observe our blogging policy – which is simple. It has only two provisions: “Blog Smart” and “Cause no harm to any person.”

I’m a longtime reader of both Bob’s and Michael’s blogs. They’re smart and always interesting.

So, if you haven’t discovered these two writers yet, I hope that you’ll subscribe to the feeds of both FlackLife and The Client Side and see for yourself why I’m excited to have them as part of the Thornley Fallis Community.